THE BOARD that will oversee the state’s new fund to help social equity cannabis businesses will be comprised of a diverse group of individuals, who represent various segments of the industry that they hope to help.
Appointments to the five-member board were finalized last week by then-Gov. Charlie Baker; then-Attorney General Maura Healey, who is now governor; and treasurer Deb Goldberg. The board will advise the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, which will administer the fund. Board positions are unpaid.
The advisory board will be chaired by Baker’s appointee, Keisha Brice of Boston. A brief biography provided by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development said Brice is “a regulatory and compliance executive with experience in the health care and cannabis industries.” Brice was the first vice president for compliance at Curaleaf, a huge multi-state cannabis company that runs 142 dispensaries and 26 grows in 21 states, including Massachusetts. She previously worked in compliance at the Dimock Center in Boston, which provides health care to underserved communities. Her biography says she is of Cape Verdean and African-American descent.
Two of the board members have been active in the nascent marijuana delivery industry. Delivery licenses for now are reserved exclusively for social equity entrepreneurs, generally individuals from communities disproportionately affected by prior enforcement of drug laws.
Aaron Goines of Abington is president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Association for Delivery. Goines, who previously worked in finance, had considered starting a marijuana delivery business but has not moved forward. He advises other social equity businesses.
Chris Fevry of Stoughton is the CEO and founder of marijuana delivery company Your Green Package, and previously led the delivery trade association.
“I’m just hoping t to help social equity applicants lower the barriers to entry and overall just have an impact,” Fevry said.
The other two appointees are Maeka Brown of Mattapan and Phil Smith of Taunton.
Brown works for Green Check Verified, which builds relationships between US financial institutions and legal cannabis businesses and provides technology services to address the unusual banking needs of cannabis companies. That involves helping banks comply with complex federal rules related to cannabis transactions and connecting cannabis companies with banks that can provide banking, checking, and other services. Brown was a former general manager at Pure Oasis in Boston and manager at Mello Dispensary in Haverhill. Dig Boston said Brown was the first Black woman to manage a cannabis dispensary in Massachusetts when she worked at Pure Oasis in 2020.
Smith is a disabled combat veteran, who served as a Marine sergeant in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He has said he used cannabis to help him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. He is a social equity entrepreneur, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Freshly Baked Company, which manufactures marijuana-infused products.
The fund will be seeded with money from the marijuana excise tax and from donations from larger companies, who are required to help improve equity in the industry as a condition of their licenses.
Goines said the ability to find funding has been the biggest obstacle for social equity entrepreneurs. “This is something that’s long overdue,” he said.
Goines said he thinks the board will have a vital role in determining how to deploy the money effectively “and make it fair and equitable.”